Alain Vigneault has always emphasized how players make the decisions for the front office and coaching staff.
Apparently Morgan Frost didn't do enough to convince the Flyers he was ready to help them fill their Kevin Hayes-sized hole down the middle.
The Flyers on Wednesday loaned Frost, Tyson Foerster, Isaac Ratcliffe, Linus Sandin and Linus Hogberg to AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley.
Frost, a 22-year-old center with high-level skill, had become the clear-cut favorite to grab a job in the Flyers' season-opening lineup after Hayes was forced to undergo abdominal surgery two days before the start of training camp. Hayes, the team's second-line center, could miss nine to 10 games, per Vigneault.
The Flyers put Frost in some juicy opportunities to produce offense in the exhibition slate. He centered James van Riemsdyk and Joel Farabee for all of camp and two preseason games. In his third exhibition game on Monday night, he centered Oskar Lindblom and Cam Atkinson. He also had a spot on the power play throughout the preseason.
But Frost struggled to show his playmaking prowess in three outings, going scoreless with two shots. The 2017 first-round pick was responsible defensively and had positive moments, but the Flyers wanted to see some offense, especially with him in a prime spot to accentuate his strengths.
Prior to his preseason debut, Frost had played two pro hockey games over a span of 560-plus days (excluding the pair of rookie games last month). He suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in his second game of 2020-21. In 2019-20, his rookie year at the pro level was cut short because of COVID-19. He was on the Flyers' 31-man roster for the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs but did not appear in a game.
"Morgan is considered a skilled offensive player with top-six potential," Vigneault said five days ago. "Unfortunately, he hasn't played a lot of hockey, he missed all of last year. Like I mentioned prior to camp, we don't know right now where these young players are with their progression. They're going to get an opportunity in exhibition to show what they can do and then we're going to make the decision.
"Maybe he is ready to step in right at the beginning, maybe it's not in a major role or maybe it's in the minors; I don't know. These next few days, next few games are going to be important for him and important for quite a few other players also."
It appears the Flyers want Frost to build his confidence by playing in all situations for Ian Laperriere and company with the Phantoms. How quickly can he push his way back to the Flyers and when might the big club need him are two storylines to watch through October and November and really the course of the season.
Jackson Cates was a dark-horse candidate to make the Flyers' roster. He very well could be in the team's season-opening lineup. Cates turned 24 years old last month and was signed by the Flyers as a college free agent in April. He played four games for the big club at the end of last season. He's a quietly steady and responsible center who is a good forechecker.
Claude Giroux, Scott Laughton and Derick Brassard give the Flyers some flexibility and options at center during Hayes' absence. All three can play center or winger. Brassard and Nate Thompson were important offseason acquisitions for depth purposes.
In other roster moves, Connor Bunnaman, Adam Clendening, German Rubtsov and Gerry Mayhew were placed on waivers. All four are expected to go unclaimed and head to Lehigh Valley. We'll find out Thursday for certain.
AHL veteran Cal O'Reilly was released from his professional tryout.
Excluding the Flyers' injured players, the club's roster is currently at 24. The Flyers must submit their final roster to the league's central registry by Monday at 5 p.m. ET. The club opens the regular season next Friday when it hosts the Canucks (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP).
The Flyers' roster can be at a maximum of 23 players but the team may open the regular season by carrying only 22 (one extra forward, one extra defensemen) for salary cap reasons.
The Flyers wrap up their preseason schedule Friday when they visit the Capitals (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP). Nick Seeler is expected to be the club's extra defenseman to open the regular season. Cam York has played only two exhibition games and will likely head to Lehigh Valley after Friday.
Here's the current look at the Flyers' roster.
James van Riemsdyk
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